Suzanne Clay © 2017
All Rights Reserved
The text from Noma came through as Ainsley was finishing up yoga in her living room. She paused before pushing into cobra, dragged her phone over instead, and rested her chin on her arms.
Hey can we FaceTime in about an hour? Ive got some good news and some bad news.
Ainsley frowned as she rolled on her back and held the phone above her. She considered her answer, thumbs hovering over the keyboard. “Of course” was what she finally settled on, and then she promptly pulled up a search engine to find out exactly what FaceTiming was.
I’m almost forty, she thought. I’m not in contact with my family, and my closest friend is a man who hates cell phones. I have an excuse for being clueless. But there was no way that a twenty-two-year-old woman needed to know that, especially if it led to the extensive teasing Ainsley thought it would.
It wasn’t the first time Ainsley had felt out of her depth with her young lover. For a week now, she’d been talking to Noma whenever possible—texting her, calling her, Skyping her—and every time she spent just five minutes listening to her talk, she had her mind blown.
How quickly this next generation could pick things up from nothing with only a search engine. How incredibly fast their minds could move from one topic to the next. How talented they were at multitasking. And Noma had the fortune of an education she’d fought hard to receive—MIT was nothing to flinch at—as well as technology advancing so quickly that the world was only a short time away from hitting a technological singularity.
And then, here was Ainsley—squinting at Photoshop like she didn’t need glasses and looking up trivial information everyone else seemed born with. Incredible.
Refusing to let heavy thoughts weigh her down, Ainsley came to her feet and folded herself into dancer pose. Twisting into positions her body had all but forgotten—her hand behind her back and around her ankle, balancing like a flamingo on her other leg—meant that her thoughts ran a little more smoothly, as if her stretching muscles made her mind work differently.
Noma seemed to like her. That much was apparent. They’d only spent one night and day together so far, but they’d sunk into each other so perfectly, Ainsley had all but forgotten how bland her day-to-day life used to be. While Noma had familial commitments to uphold as a new college graduate, she never let a night go by without sending Ainsley sweet words that made her feel missed.
New pictures filled Ainsley’s phone nowadays, and they were pictures she wasn’t sure she had a right to: a bored Noma snapping a photo of herself in the back of a car, bracketed by her two young siblings; Noma, shy and half-asleep and smiling up from her silk pillow; a scandalous mirror picture of her in matching lingerie with a wink. But Noma wouldn’t have sent them if she didn’t like Ainsley or if she didn’t see some potential in their relationship. Right?
Ainsley lost her balance and caught herself on the edge of the coffee table, trying to stop panting. That was really the weight of it all: they’d played together, they’d had scenes together, but they still hadn’t talked about what they were looking for with each other in a serious way. And Ainsley couldn’t figure out if she was wrong for wanting that.
An hour later, Ainsley tucked herself against the arm of her couch and waited for Noma’s call. She didn’t have to wait long. When she answered, alarm bells went off in her head at how her phone camera decided to show the least attractive angle of herself possible—namely, giving a peek at her nose hairs.
“Oh my God,” Noma said with a laugh. “Ainsley, please.”
“Just a moment.” Ainsley tried to adjust the phone so she could look a little less wrinkly and a little more striking. Her hand trembled, and when she propped her arm up on her knee she looked…washed-out, actually, and pale. But it was the best she could do. “Hi.”
Noma, brilliant in her royal-purple tank top with a slash of matching eyeliner, looked like she’d just come off a photo shoot somewhere. She grinned. “Hey there, gorgeous.”
“Stop.” Ainsley rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t keep the smile from her face or the warmth from her cheeks.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” Noma murmured, and when Ainsley looked back at her, she saw how Noma was drinking her in. Her pupils were huge, her lids were languid, and every part of her expression felt like something sweet and treasured that Ainsley didn’t deserve. “Missed you.”
Ainsley beamed. “Did you, sweetheart?”
“More than I wanted to.” Noma sighed. “Listen, I’m sorry I had to cancel on our little get-together we talked about a few days back—”
“It’s fine,” Ainsley interrupted. “You have a lot going on. I completely understand.”
“Yeah, but like, I’m not trying to stay away from you, if you get what I’m saying.” Noma watched her closely. “There’s just been a lot of time-sensitive things going on, since my aunts could only be in town for a week or whatever.”
“And I’m not upset about it at all.” Ainsley smiled. “You said a lot of your family couldn’t even be at your graduation ceremony, right? It makes perfect sense that you need to see them all right now. Especially with how big your family is.”
Noma frowned. “About that, I, uh…”
Ainsley blinked and then adjusted herself so she could see Noma a little better and try to read her face. “What is it?”
“That’s the bad news I talked about,” Noma said, wincing. “I’ve got a pretty full plate this next week too. I won’t be able to see you till it’s over.”
“Oh.” It had been years since Ainsley had been strung along, but she remembered the feeling—the tightness of her chest, the inability to breathe. “Oh, okay.”
“I’m sorry,” Noma said.
“You don’t have anything to apologize for.” Ainsley forced a smile, but it felt cold compared to the last one. “You’ll be heading back to Massachusetts soon after that, right? I know how hard it can be to fit such a huge number of things into a month.” It was easier to pull out excuses for Noma to pick from than watch her try to make them herself.
Noma looked away for a moment and dropped her voice. “Here’s the thing, though. My uncle? You know, the divorced one I told you about? The doting one?”
“Of course,” Ainsley said. She had a picture of them together too.
“So, he’s got this cabin in the mountains, and he wants me and my friends to go up there next weekend so we can get some time together before I have to go, and I told him yes.”
Ainsley swallowed down her disappointment. “That sounds like a lot of fun. You’ll have to take lots of pictures.”
“We’ll have to take lots of pictures.”
Ainsley furrowed her brow. “What?”
“I want you go to with me, Ainsley.” Noma smiled—that same shy smile she’d given her when she peeked up out of Ainsley’s bed that first morning. “Nobody else. Just you and me up in the mountains, enjoying nature and shit.”